Friday, March 12, 2010

Fun Playing With Florida Food - 2010 Destin (part 3 of 3)

My last two posts chronicled the first two-thirds of the good, the bad and the ugly food we played with in Destin, Florida during the latter part of February. The good news is that, despite a couple of other bumps, it was mostly clear and happy sailing from here!

One thing I forgot to mention about Stinky's/Lake Place is that the bartender at Stinky's told me that Jim Richards was looking for a new location for The Lake Place, as the parking capacity at the current location was simply inadequate for two restaurants. This explains, in part, why we didn't get to try The Lake Place - it is closed until this relocation occurs.

Moving along to Monday, February 22. Wine World's spanking new Watercolor location would be opening today. We had lunched at the Destin Wine World cafe last year, and we very much wanted to try Chef Alison Porter's cooking again. Driving out to Watercolor - our first impressions of her new digs were great:

Like the Destin store, the retail side of the Watercolor Wine World features an impressive selection of cheeses, charcuterie, and a tremendous wine selection at incredibly fair prices. Luckily for our tummies and  wallets, we didn't look at the retail side until after we'd eaten lunch and were too full for more!

Truffle Mousse and Pate De Champagne


Seven Varieties of Salami

Jamon Serrano

Cheese, Please

There was another cheese case, the same size, but it wasn't in working order yet. I'm sure that by now, it is loaded with goodness!

Also located on the "retail" side, is the pizza kitchen (the main kitchen is hidden in the back):

This room is behind the retail area, and could provide intimate yet spacious seating for a group.

The "main" dining room.

The bar, which presently serves beer, wine and soft drinks.

We were among the first customers to arrive that sunny Monday. Even as our meal unfolded, we saw the managers training the staff. Then more training. And more training. Given some of the service we'd experienced this trip, this was a most welcome sight! We settled in, anticipating a delicious experience, and we were rewarded.

Alison had warned us that lunch would be a limited menu for the first few days, so I was prepared when the server told us that none of the fish or seafood items was available for lunch today. We decided to share a salad and a pizza. This is only the second pizza to grace a meal table for us on our Destin trip in eight years - I don't go to Florida for pizza! But this was a wonderful pizza, worthy of the best that Cleveland, or even, dare I say, my hometown of New York has to offer.

Service was prompt and knowledgeable. We were delighted that the our server had the kitchen split our salad in two - these photographs are of my half salad:

Arugala & Walnut Salad

Subtitle this dish "BLT Salad+." Crispy arugula was topped with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Spicy Walnuts (with a delicious coating), tomato, cucumber, shaved manchego cheese and a wonderful apple cider vinaigrette. We savored every bite.

The walnuts were worth the price of admission all by themselves.

Four Cheese Pizza

This thin crusted, beautifully charred pizza featured mozzarella, feta, Tillamook Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses over a gentle tomato sauce.

Crust Shot!

That is a beautiful thing.

There were no leftovers! We also received these accompaniments:

As we were leaving, one of the servers was about to go on her lunch break, and she showed me her amazing-looking Chicken Salad - I had to take a photo:

Chicken Salad with Grapes, Pecans and Green Onions

You can see her sitting outside, enjoying her salad, in the first Wine World photo in this series, above.

I wanted very much to return to Wine World for a dinner, but we just couldn't fit it in. We did make it back for drinks a couple of times, however. And we look forward to trying more of Chef Alison's menu next year! We wish Alison, Manager Steve, and all of the staff at Wine World great success in this new venture.

For Monday's dinner, we headed for the recently burned down and re-built Bayou Bill's on Rt. 98 in  Santa Rosa Beach. I'm not sure why this place wasn't on my radar before, but it sure is now! We arrived well after 8pm (on the nice days, we'd wait to shower and head out until after watching the sunset; this put us a little late for "off season" dining). There were only a few cars in the parking lot, and two pulled out as we pulled in. We walked in to a BIG emptiness. And this is where good service makes all of the difference!

It would have been easy for the servers to slough us off, as so many had already done on this trip. Instead, our server provided excellent and attentive service from the moment she greeted us. I repeated my routine of asking specifically about fish and seafood items on the menu. We then decided to start by sharing an order of crab claws:

Half Pound Steamed Crab Claws



Simply lovely! And so generous a portion that we needed a box. But the best was yet to come. Some of the freshest and best prepared fish on the trip:

Char-Grilled Grouper, Baked Potato, Cole Slaw, Hush Puppies

Bob thoroughly enjoyed his dinner, and my taste of his fish confirmed we'd found a winner here. But mine was even better! I'd been hankering for a hunk of fresh, juicy tuna since our first night's disaster at Harbor Docks - dare I trust this simple restaurant with modest price points to come through?

Chargrilled Tuna, Baked Potato, Hush Puppies, Cole Slaw


I had asked for the tuna to be seared outside and rare on the inside. On first look/cut - I feared the kitchen had over-done it. 


But another cut, and - big sigh of relief - the pristine fish was cooked perfectly to my specifications. 


We both also marveled at the portion sizes - two large fillets for each of us. This was easily twice as much fish as Harbor Docks was serving, and Bayou Bill's was at a much lower price point. And so, the fact that the sides lacked profundity matters not at all. Sometimes, there is something to be said for a simple baked potato. Even the food-service tarter sauce could not dim the joy of fresh, bountiful fish, prepared and served simply. We did close the place - but the cooks playing cards at a table (obviously waiting for the last customers to leave before cleaning) smiled at us as we left. Bayou Bill's is highly recommended!

We awoke Tuesday 2/23 to a gorgeous (though still chilly) day. We were determined to check out a place that a couple of internet posters had messaged me about - they didn't want to "let the secret out" on the public forums about the Bay Cafe in Forth Walton Beach. Though this place may be better populated during the "in" season, it was not nearly busy enough during our lunch, so I'm sharing the "secret" to ensure they remain available to us for seasons to come!

The Bay Cafe, 233 Alconese Avenue Southeast, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548-5832, (850) 244-3550 (no website) is tucked beneath the Brooks Bridge; coming from Okaloosa Island, you actually have to detour through what is now a shopping center parking lot to get to it. I loved the whimsical cover on the dinner menu: 

This is the lunch menu cover:

This page is again from the dinner menu:

The 411 on this place, I was told, is that is is run by a French Chef who's owned it for over 20 years. Don't know about that. However, I understand the frustrations of a couple of the folks who reviewed this place on Tripadvisor - service was kind of slow. But since the food didn't suffer, and since we were on vacation, that was less important to me.

Since service was slow, we had lots of time to take in the lovely views.

Bread service was surprisingly good, considering that the bread was nothing special. It was that toasting thing - and the addition of good butter - that took something average and made it lovely.

We shared the appetizer special of the day: Crabcakes. A plate of this appetizer could have been a completely satisfying meal for either of us:

The crabcakes were loaded with fresh crabmeat and just enough tasty breading to keep it all together. The salad was a little odd - food-service salad mix together with fresh endive and grapes. But the dressing was fabulous, and it all worked together beautifully. I especially appreciated the bitterness of the endive against the sweeter dressing, and having the grapes as palate cleaners.

My Appetizer Plate

This perfect appetizer whetted our appetites for the mains.

Basque Omelete

Bob's lunch  featured perfectly cooked eggs coddling tomato, cheese, and peppers - his only complaint was that the eggs needed salt. But he enjoyed it, as well as the potato that accompanied both lunch plates - a  cross between a baked potato and mashed potatoes, a sort of croquet - caramelized on the outside and creamy on the inside. Yum!

Grouper Menuiere

My lunch was another off-menu special that day - one of my sources had told me to ask for this dish if it wasn't on the menu - good advice (though amberjack menuiere is on the "regular" lunch and dinner menus)! The fish was fresh and cooked perfectly, with just the right amount of "good" butter - though it lacked the dramatic presentation of fish menuiere made with a whole fish (think "Julie and Julia") - this plate was mighty fine, and slightly elegant, eats.

What a wonderful lunch!

We left quite full and happy and spent the rest of the afternoon on our terrace, worshipping the sun. Though it was way too cold to frolic on the beach, our terrace right over the Gulf of Mexico was sheltered from the wind, and let the sun shine in. For much of my Destin trip, especially when it's below-average temperatures outside, I'm a terrace bum. Yes, a terrace bum. Kinda like a beach bum, but you don't get any sand between your toes. Anyway, I digress.

After delighting in the sunset, and showering up, it was dinner time. But where to go? While Bob was showering, I called Bud & Alley's, to find out how late they'd be serving on their upstairs deck. The person who answered said 9pm, but that they' might close earlier if it was slow. That was the reason I called first - in 2009, we showed up around 8:30pm and found we'd just missed them. So imagine our disappointment when we arrived just after 8pm, while a party was still consuming at the bar, to be told that they had "just made" last call. It was dejavu all over again. The fellow who told us this used no emotion in this voice - was he saying that it was last call so we'd better hurry up and order, or that it was after last call and the kitchen (and bar) was closed? A little emotion, or description, would have been nice, such as "I'm sorry, but we just finished last call and we're not serving anymore." As it was, we stood there feeling foolish, then unwelcome. Then this fellow stated, "I've already run my reports" as if that was a good reason to decline hospitality. Oh - then you are closed - thanks for telling us.

Having driven all the way from Destin to Seaside, and knowing that other places might also be pulling their sidewalks in, we high-tailed it back to County Rd. 283 - on our way to Bud & Alley's, I'd seen the neon sign for the relatively new House of Klaus, 14 Clayton Lane (same development as Hurricane Oyster Bar and Fire), (850) 231-2865. Would they still be open to feed us?

We pulled into the parking lot and jumped out of the car - the "open" sign was still out, and the lights were on. It was about 8:15pm - and we learned as we entered the small restaurant that they close at 8pm, and indeed, cleaning and closing rituals had commenced. But the jolly owner, appropriately named Klaus, said he would be happy to accommodate us if the fryer was still hot. With luck, it was.

House of Klaus is small (though it has some lovely outside space for warmer weather). But it is warm and welcoming!

Klaus's able assistant re-opened the kitchen and set to work on a Klaus Burger for Bob and a fried shrimp basket for me. As he cooked, we chatted with Klaus, who has a large, generous and sweet personality. He fessed up that the shrimp were frozen - but assured me that they were local and come in a 5# block. Thus, no chemicals.

The Moo Moo Burger - 9 ounces of ground beef, onions and seasonings, Swiss and Cheddar Cheeses, Dijon Mayo and Home Made Au Gratin Potatoes

These made-from-scratch 'taters were a lovely change from the ubiquitous baked potatoes and food-service fries. My bite of the burger was juicy and delicious.

Fried Shimp Basket

As I've noted - frying can cover a lot of sins. In this case, frying helped to disguise the texture of the frozen shrimp (which was like, well, frozen shrimp) - but the flavors were exactly what I come to Florida for. The fries had lovely crisp and mouthfeel, and the shrimp breading enhanced the sweet shrimpy flavor. The shrimp wore no chemically smells or tastes. And most important - they tasted like shrimp!

I'd already stashed the camera away when Klaus tried to tempt us with desserts (which sounded wonderful). But we were both full. Not even a taste of my home-made ice cream, he said. Wellll - maybe a taste. Just a little tas . . . . OMG! Real homemade ice cream, churned in a real, albeit modern churn. We tasted two varieties - a chocolate that was to die for, and a vanilla that was still a bit soft, but had already developed some amazingly deep vanilla flavor. It was enough to make me want to come back during the long hot summer to eat a big bowl of it! Klaus's website isn't up yet, but it should be "" when that time comes. In the meantime, you can reach him by phone. House of Klaus delivers both hot food, and styrofoam coolers packed with ice, beverages and sandwiches for the beach. You will have fun playing with food from the House of Klaus, whichever way is your pleasure!

Wednesday 2/24 started out with lots of rain and gloom - our cue to head to Nick's on the Choctawhatchee Bay, affectionately known to the locals as "Nick's in the Sticks," 7585 Hwy 20, Basin Bayou, Freeport, FL (850) 835-2222 (no website). I say this because it seems to always be raining or overcast when we go to Nick's, though that's just a coincidence. Nick's has been serving the locals fresh fish and seafood since 1963. We've learned the importance of going early to get the best seafood, and so a trip to Nick's has become a lunch staple for us. I wanted Blue Crabs!

I finally succeeded in photographing a couple of the owners' pet chickens roaming about this year (they were practically blocking the entrance):

This is a room that does not change.

View out the rear window.

We arrived around 11:30am. There were two tables with snowbirds by the rear windows, and a few locals lunching at the bar. As always, service was friendly and swift. We were a little disappointed by the small number of choices, but our server explained that the local Blue Crab season was being delayed a few weeks by the cold weather, and that Apalachicola oysters were en route, but had not yet arrived. Moreover, a lot of the local fisherman and their crews were in Washington DC this day (and they'd left the day before) for a Congressional hearing on fishing and marine policy. Still - no worries - this was Nick's!

We ordered our beverages and our meals; we each ordered cole slaw as a side. Nick's always serves the cole slaw as a first "salad" sort of course.

Seems like food service veggie mix with a housemade dressing that is a little sweet. As always, we liked it.

Fried Shrimp Plate

One taste of Bob's shrimp, and I became intensely jealous. He'd hit the motherload - fresh, sweet shrimp that was never-frozen and had no chemistry. I wanted them! But I had my own plate to contend with and it was too late to change it.

Can you tell I liked these shrimp?

Grilled Snapper Platter

The snapper was also beautifully fresh - I don't know which variety of snapper it was, but probably not Red Snapper, since that season wasn't going to be open until June (one of the issues the fisherman had gone to Washington to, um, discuss). You don't go to Nick's for the sides - though these cheese grits were excellent.

Honestly, I thought the portion of fish was a little small for the price, but it was so good that I can't complain. The plate was around $20. But I really wanted those shrimp! Next year . . . .

As we headed back to the Mid-Bay Bridge - something caught my attention on Rt. 20 heading west. It looked too interesting to just pass by:

Yup - a food trailer. Dang, we were too stuffed to taste any of the food, but I had to take a photo:

As we sat in the parking lot taking pictures, the proprietor came out, approached us, and demanded to know what the heck we were taking pictures of! I explained that "this was something you don't see every day," and she lightened up. I hope to try out their wares next year - perhaps one of you local readers can report in the comments whether Bream's is worth the stop!

For dinner, we vistied the lovely Restaurant Fire, near House of Klaus. Again, I called before we trekked, and was told they'd be seating until at least 8:30pm. However, when we got there around 8pm, the last tables were leaving. The gentleman who seated us (who I believe was the General Manager, Mario McNally) said he was glad we'd called, or he might not have stayed open. Unfortunately, our server was in a hurry to finish this last table and call it a night. Fire is right on the edge of "fine" dining in its decor and price points, so it was a shame that our server seemed so distracted.The food is heavily influenced by the owners' former home in New Orleans, LA, and the restaurant prides itself on freshness.

I had been coughing for the past couple of days, so I was delighted with the selection of sipping rums on the menu, at approachable prices. Flor de Cana 18 yr hit the spot (and stopped the cough). We decided to share an appetizer:

Crispy Oysters with Remoulade and and Asian Inspired Sauce

These beautiful oysters were perfectly cooked, accompanied by a fresh and zippy remoulade and drizzled with an intriguing sauce that had sweet (hoisin) and spicy notes.

Bread service, which I believe is baked to order, arrived as we were finishing our appetizer; we'd used our bread plates to portion out and eat the appetizer. We were still eating our appetizer at this point, but the server tried to clear the plates anyway.

Freshly Baked Biscuits

Honey Butter

Unfortunately for Bob, he got up to use the men's room before enjoying his biscuit. Our server returned while he was gone, and succeded this time in clearing the appetizer dishes and silver - including Bob's bread plate with his untouched muffin on it. When they both returned to the table, we asked about  Bob's biscuit and she had no clue; once we clued her in, she said she'd get him another. She also needed a separate nudge to bring fresh silverware.

I had, as usual, asked about the fish and seafood - a special that evening of Florida Lobster with Fettuccine Alfredo had caught my eye - but was the lobster alive and kicking? After a trip to the kitchen to ask, our server revealed that since Fire doesn't have a fish tank, the lobster meat was frozen. The only other choice for fresh fish was Black Grouper, which Bob was going to have - so I put myself in the hands of the very capable kitchen and went with the lobster dish.

Florida Lobster with Fresh Fettuccine Alfredo, House-Made Spicy Tasso, Pea Shoots, Preserved Lemon

This was a truly creative and delicious entree, and the frozen lobster did not disappoint.  The house-made pasta melted in the mouth, and the alfredo sauce was much lighter than I expected, so all of the wonderful flavors and textures came together - the Tasso lent some spice, and the Pea Shoots and lemon played beautifully with the lobster and pasta.

Grilled Black Grouper, Sofrito, Black Bean, Potato Croquette • Cherry Tomato Confit • Charred Corn Cream • Chile Oil

Bob's entree was also delicious - fresh and expertly prepared.

A fresh plate of biscuits was deposited on the table while we were eating. All was well. The food and ambiance at Fire never disappoint.

After dinner, we stopped by Wine World for a drink. I enjoyed a couple of glasses of dessert wine, the 1927 Alvear Pedro Ximinez from Spain, which had an intense raisin-y flavor - in a good way. Thank you, Manager Steve, for refilling my glass!


As Thursday rolled around, we could not help but sense the impending end to our trip to paradise. We needed to squeeze in as much sun and seafood as possible! Bob, who generally argees to eat wherever I  suggest, had a request. We'd read about the newish Fish Lipz Bar & Grill in the local paper this week, and the Mensa group was going to have their March Happy Hour there - so Bob's interest was piqued. 

With everything from a cool name to a great logo, to space for live music and an amazing view (just across the parking lot from the Bay Cafe, under the Brooks Bridge) - Fish Lipz should have been a fun, if not gourmet experience. However, it was not to be.

The View

The initial harbinger of trouble was the menu itself. This restaurant has only been in business for a couple of months, but the menus we were given were stained and crinkled (and heck, they were just printed out on paperboard; you'd think they'd print fresh ones when the old ones got ratty). Before we even got to look at the menu - our server was apologizing to us because he had a table of about 13 that had just been seated for lunch (though it appeared that was his only other table). We told him - no hurries, no worries. Nevertheless, another server took over our table, explaining that the first server's hands were full, and we were ok with that also (the second server also shortly wound up dealing with a table of about 12, so that strategy did not accomplish its purpose).

Since there is no "lunch" menu, our new server steered us towards the less expensive sandwich section of the menu. As always, though, my focus was on asking- "which of the fish or seafood items pops with freshness and flavor"? The server kept telling me that "she" liked the grouper. I asked, how's the mahi, amberjack and snapper. She said - I never eat them so I don't know. How about asking the kitchen if you don't know?? I don't care what you like - I want to know what's what!

OMG - did I just shout? Sorry. (I didn't actually shout.) Instead, since I couldn't get an intelligent answer from the server, I went for the grouper sandwich. How could I go wrong? She likes it.

First up - Bob's lunch:

Fried Oysterz - Apalachicola Oysters battered and golden fried with slaw and fries 12.99

I've left the price tag on, deliberately. The oysters were ok (not great - that frying covers up a lotta sins); the fries, tarter and cocktail sauce were all off of the Sysco truck. Doesn't seem like a great value for $13, does it?

Then, there was my grouper sandwich:

This looked alright, even if the sweet potato fries were obviously frozen. Until I dug into the fish.

Perhaps you can see at the top of the fillet, where it is a little split, what is wrong with the texture. Fresh fish flakes, frozen fish breaks. One bite (actually the smell right before the bite) confirmed the worst possible answer - the fish was frozen AND stale. This magnificent specimen, served on a non-descript food service bun, was $11. Of course by now, the room had filled in with several other parties, large and small, so a server was nowhere to be found. Our original server finally dropped by and asked how things were going, and I told him. I asked him if there was a fresh piece of fish in the house. He said . . .  "I'll go into the kitchen and check." Epiphany.

I did get another sandwich, and it was actually pretty good. Couldn't they have told me about this in the first place and avoided all of that unpleasantness?

Grilled Mahi Mahi

And so, we finished our one, and I assure you only one, lunch at Fish Lipz. Caveat emptor.

We actually left Fish Lipz in a pretty good mood. The sun was shining, and tonight we were invited to the soft opening of Louis Louis, in the former Cafe Provence on Rt. 98 in Santa Rosa Beach. We had loved the 3Thirty1 Cafe, and could not wait to see what Philippe, Louis and Oli Petit would have in store for us at their new location. Even better, we'd be returning to Louis Louis the next night with friends! Louis, Louis

We arrived around 8pm, and the place was packed! Cars were lined up, and parked throughout most of the officepark across the street from the restaurant. We were given a pager and went to the bar to await a table. We joined in the party with this mass of happy people. Unfortunately, my camera doesn't do so well in low light, and there was a lot of red light and background making that reality worse. I am pleased to report that Louis Louis retains the sense of humor and kitsch that made the 3Thirty1 so much fun (and which makes its sister, The Red Bar, so much fun). Here are a few tastes:

It was after 9pm when we were finally seated in a lovely little room - the space has a few cozy alcoves like this. Seated at the table across from us at the same time was the electrician who had wired up the place (and his wife), and cattycorner to us was a table with several folks and their families, who it seemed were also involved in the construction (the folks, not the families!). Everyone was having a wonderful time! And leave it to the Petits to invite not just friends and family for the opening - but those who had helped to make the place possible.

The menu is small (though it will probably expand a bit as time goes on) and is presented on the Red Bar/3Thirty1 classic chalk board, with a reminder that credit cards are not accepted (there is an ATM on premises, and they accept personal checks). Bob chose the gorgeous pork loin we'd watched a gentleman eat at the bar, and I of course opted for fish:

 Pork Loin, Sauteed Leeks and Mushrooms, Pan Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Salad

I know the photo sucks - but trust me, the pork was perfectly cooked and juicy, and the salad and potatoes were everything you expect from the Petits!

Blackened Grouper Over Wilted Spinach and Bacon Cheddar Grit Cake with Brown Butter, House Salad

This 3Thirty1 Cafe classic had me sighing with pleasure. I loved the fresh and perfectly seasoned grouper, but I lamented that I was too full to finish my creamy, almost pudding-like grit cake.

Though the desserts shared by the electrician and his wife looked wonderful (and they both proclaimed them fabulous) - we were too full for Key Lime Pie or Apple Tart - or anything else. Thank you, Oli, for treating us to the Grand Opening.

The next day would be our last full day in Destin. We'd be going to Louis Louis again with a bunch of friends for dinner, but first, there was lunch to attend to. As much as I'd loved our lunch at Wine World - I have to award "Best Lunch of Trip" to Basmati's.

We'd visited Basmati's Asian Cuisine,(850) 267-3028 Santa Rosa Beach, 3295 W County Highway 30a, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459 (no website) in 2007, while in search of sushi. We'd always heard good things about them, but their price points were a little high, so we'd never actually dined there; that evening, we had shared a sushi  roll and an inari. Basmati's recently began offering lunch, which seemed to be the perfect way to taste test them without breaking the bank. It was a wise selection!

Western silverware was also included in the place setting, but this lovely chopstick rest with chopsticks won my heart for presentation. We were seated in the rear of the restaurant (another converted home, like its neighbor Cafe Tango), which is a screened-in porch. We noticed some four-footed company hanging around the bamboo plant!

We were grateful that he didn't try to sell us car insurance.

Even more fun - the couple at the next table. A daddy (also on vacation from Ohio - the Columbus area) and his approximately 8 year old daughter - who delighted us with her brash foodiness and willingness to try sushi and lo mein. No chicken nuggets for this chick!

Lake Views Out the Back  


Bob asked me what the bamboo was for after our server dropped two of these on the table. I reminded him of the lovely sushi presentation that Basmati does!

Spicy Tuna Roll

The sushi is presented on a chilled slab of granite, which is set atop the two bamboo "feet."

We shared the Tuna Roll - not only was the tuna pristine and the sushi rice and wrapper perfect - the pickled ginger on the side was lovely.

For the next course, we each ordered an item and then we shared them.

Thai Caprese Salad - Heirloom Tomato, Purple Basil, Sweet Chili Infused House-Made Mozzerella

We both loved this salad  - the tomatoes were ok (with the weather conditions in Florida, there was no way to complain about tomatoes that lacked profundity), but the mozzarella and dressing were really special.

Crab & Asparagus Egg Drop Soup - Traditional Egg Drop Soup with Fresh Lump Crab and Asparagus


We slurped our way to the bottom of this bowl. Finally, a soup served hot! And not only hot, but simply delicious - fresh, sweet crab meat and asparagus in a beautiful soup.

Thai Beef Basil Stir Fry- Beef Tenderloin, Thai Peppers, Steamed Jasmine Rice

Fortunately, Bob had told the server that he wanted the dish spicy - she  told us that despite the description, it is usually not that hot. Forewarned being forearmed, however, the kitchen delivered some decent heat with this tasty dish.

Fish Cake Salad - House Salad Topped Topped With Fish Cakes (Grouper & Mahi), Spicy Aoli

While sometimes a dish like this is put on the menu to use up old fish - this version shined with clean fish flavors, not too much breading, and complimentary accompaniments. The goat cheese was an inspired touch.

The best thing about this delicious lunch? Only one item on the Basmati lunch menu is over $10 (the "Wagu Burger" is $12). So we were able to enjoy these three courses for a very modest price. And neither portion size nor quality suffered to accomodate the pricing - smart move Basmati. We will certainly return for a meal next year!

Our last dinner came hours later at a second visit to Louis Louis. John and Mary Ann again picked us up, and several other friends met us there. The sun hadn't set yet, so there was hope for better pictures from my camera (and hopefully, a smaller crowd). Though the restaurant wasn't packed yet, the cars were already overflowing to the lot across the street and the bar was humming. We were again seated in one of the cozy alcoves, though this one was bigger than the one we'd occupied the night before.

Decor, Petit Style.

Bread Service

I didn't mention the bread we were served Thursday night because it was non-descript. I suspect that they had run out of the good stuff by the time we were seated. Tonight, we were again served the standard food service rolls - plus this yummy olive-bread.

The menu was identical to the prior night - except for a special, which I ordered:

Herb Crusted Grouper over Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Baby Vegetables and Lemon Cream Sauce

Unfortunately, I've lost my notes with the specifics of the two sauces on the plate - but I do remember pretty much licking the plate clean, so they must have been good! And thanks to the internet, I'm reminded that one sauce was Lemon Cream - the other was olive oil based - maybe a pesto?

Foccacia Crostini with Fresh Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions and Peppers, Prosciutto, Buffalo Mozzarella and House Salad 

Bob loved his entree, which was much more complex tasting than it sounded. In fact, everyone loved their food. Philippe Petit stopped by the table to say hello to John; it was great to finally meet him! He was kind enough to treat us to desserts - which we'd saved room for this time! Unfortunately, it had gotten dark by then, so the photography kinda sucks - but trust me, these desserts are worth the calories.

Bread Pudding

This plate was passed around the table. It was oh-so-good! I especially loved the home-made caramel.

Pecan Brownie with Ice Cream

Bob's choice was dense with rich chocolate, balanced by the lightness of the ice cream. And I thought he was going to get the Key Lime pie! I couldn't decide between the pie, and what I ultimately chose, but I think I chose well:

Apple Tart with Ice Cream, Chocolate and Whipped Cream

The made-from-scratch, baked-to-order pastry filled with hot apple filling was beautiful to look at and to eat, and the ice cream and chocolate only made it better!

What a wonderful meal! Service was friendly, prompt and efficient, the food fresh and exciting, and the company a joy. This may have been our last night, but we were going out strong!

We awoke early on Saturday. We had to be out of the condo by 10am; we decided to eat a light breakfast (sharing a few small portions) at Silver Sands, then pack and check out, then have a last lunch.

Small Cheese Grits

Sausage Gravy

You know what these are, don't you?

We struggled over where to go for our last lunch. In prior years, it would be a no-brainer: Harbor Docks. That was not going to happen this year - also, the weather was not great for sitting outside at the condo as we usually do. It came down to two places, and we finally opted for - Harry T's (it was Harry T's or Bay Cafe). The place with the best service won out!

Server Seth again was off, but our third server (who's name I did not recall - sorry) also gave us great service. 

Cream of Snow Crab Soup

I was a little worried about ordering this - would it really be good? Our server assured us that the crab, and the soup, were fresh. And indeed they were. Served a little colder than it wanted to be - but so tasty that we didn't want to mess with it. The crab meat was sweet and fresh, and the cream did not overwhelm it. A little sprinkle of Harry T's magic dust made it that much more delectable.



Liz's Favorite Fried Oysters

Bob enjoyed his lunch, but felt that there was excessive breading on the oysters (which meant more breading on the plate and less oyster). 

The Hushpuppies were mighty tasty.


I vacillated - this was the last meal! I knew I wanted fish - but what to have? The server sorta talked me into this:

Fish of the Day (Snapper) with Herb Crusted Aioli, New Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli and Muffin

The fish was very good, but the dish overall seemed like it was missing something. I can't say what. Still, it was a very satisfying meal (other than the food-service muffin), but at at a dinner price.

And so ended our 2010 trip to Destin. After leaving Harry T's, we headed to the airport and made our way back to Akron. We landed, as we did last year, in snow. SNOW! Yuck. Still, we had the memories of two and a half weeks playing with food in a sunny paradise to keep us warm.


  1. You found one of my favorite restaurants...Bay Cafe. Two to try...Steamers Ft. Walton for king crab and Pandora's for an old fashioned steak house. Great service and wine.

  2. @Anne - Loved the Bay Cafe! Did you mean Old Bay Steamer?

    We've been to Old Bay Steamer once, and I wasn't impressed because the shellfish wasn't local.

    We like Pandora's - haven't been in a couple of years, but thanks for the reminder that we need to get back!

  3. Wow! The food there looks delicious. Just seeing those pictures make me hungry, and I know it's the same for the people who left their comments here. I want to try those along with my wife after we do some shopping in Destin, or maybe after we go and have fun together at the beach... I can't wait to try these out!